Can you fall in love with a city? My answer is yes. Because that's what happened to me coming to Tirana.
In my imagination I thought it was gray and sad, as happens when a country suffers a communist dictatorship, which in this case lasted forty years. I didn't know anything else because the news they filter is very scarce or even non-existent. In fact it is a country ignored by the press and TV, almost unknown to both mass and elite tourism.
So far, I might add, because the situation is constantly changing.
Arriving at Tirana airport, large and well maintained, with people coming to you to ask you if you need their help, I realized that something of my vision had to be revised.
Skirting the long avenue that leads to the city, bordered by green-covered hills that lightened the greyness of the streets, my gaze, through the window of the taxi, already predisposed my mind to some unexpected surprise.
In fact, having arrived at my hotel, small but attractive, having been an elegant villa in the past, now wisely restored with white and blue colors, I suddenly felt almost at home. The girl at the reception welcomes me in perfect Italian, takes my heavy suitcase, drags her into the room with the smile of someone who is happy to be able to do a courtesy. Courtesy and kindness are in the DNA of this people.
Without placing my clothes in the closet, being anxious to immerse myself in that unknown world, I take the first taxi that takes me to the famous Skanderbeg square, one of the few places I knew about.
I held on to the arm of the taxi that circled between rows of cars, its heart suspended, witnessing veritable pirouettes in a chaotic and disorderly traffic.
You arrive at the destination, skirting crowded streets of young people who hang around smiling and fill the bars that ring in the streets of the city.
Tirana is the CITY OF YOUTH
There is in the air an explosion of vitality, of joy, of enthusiasm that involves those who, like me, are bored by the consumer torpor of our country.
It's nice to talk to anyone who approaches you. They are open people, interested in knowing where they come from, ready to open up and talk about their studies, their job prospects, regardless of the fact that in reality the country's economy is not the most prosperous. In fact in Albania you can live with little compared to the costs of the big western cities. A full meal for two consumes with 20 euro, a coffee with a few cents, the same applies to beverages, alcohol, fruit and vegetables.
In short, for those wishing to take a low cost holiday, Albania is for now the ideal land. I say for now, because one has the feeling that tourism is about to explode and in this way things will change.
Albania is the country of TOLERANCE
Here there is religious freedom, a peaceful coexistence between the different faiths: Orthodox, Muslims, Catholics. Which already happened during the communist regime in which the Albanians gave, without fear, testimony of their faith.
For those coming from outside it arouses a certain curiosity mixed with wonder to see the young girls who wander around the city all in short skirts or very short shorts, yet only the same ones who frequent their mosques.
Albania has a highly HOSPITAL CULTURE, and warm that is also found in the various small gestures, which can be an unexpected hug, a particularly warm handshake, accompanied by kisses. It is a feeling that is truly felt and not falsely flaunted.
THE CITY': it is the tangible example of how anonymous buildings can be transformed into joyful colorful architectures. The merit is of a former mayor, now Prime Minister EDI RAMA, revered as a God and declared by Time Magazine man of the year in Europe in the 2005. It was he, an impromptu painter, who had the entire center of Tirana painted in Pompeian red combined with pastel green, ocher yellow that make it look like St. Petersburg.
The enormous avenues, lined with giant trees, compete with the spacious ones in Paris.
The yellow taxis, which travel far and wide, without interrupting the city, remind me of New York, although here a normal ride costs only 2 euros.
In short, it is a lively city, full of shops with all kinds of merchandise open until late, even on Sundays, high-quality restaurants, concert halls, theaters, discos.
There is the BLOCK, a square of streets, which once were forbidden to the people, because the dictator lived there surrounded by his hierarchs. Now it is a sort of Montmartre reserved for young people who spend their evenings drinking, smoking and having fun.
The attractions to visit are not many but some very beautiful. THE ORTHODOX CHURCH with a solid gold portal like the front baptistery, while a row of religious images lined up in front of the altar are lined up like in the Basilica of San Marco. The various MOSQUES that stand tall in the sky sending those sweet sounds of the muezzins, the Museum, the Gallery of Modern Art, where they set up an exhibition of the painter LIN DELIJA forced, during the communist regime to flee and take refuge in Italy and precisely in Antrodoco, a beautiful country of Italy, where he carried out his activity, becoming one of the greatest Albanian painters.
Then there are historical curiosities such as the PYRAMID that Hoxha had himself built for his tomb, now almost a ruin having been stripped of the marble that covered it.
There are on the edges of the bridges that cross the river, a sort of long stalls, on which the vendors pour from their boxes, a quantity of used books dividing them in the various sectors and foreign languages. An outdoor literary market that indicates how interest in culture is developed.
In short, there is a flourishing of many initiatives, expressions of a desire to re-emerge after a long period of oppression and that makes Tirana, even if not yet a cosmopolitan metropolis, certainly the city of the future, to know and love it ..........
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